The Dreamcasts first offering of a flight combat game more resembles a great PSX game rather than a 128 bit Dreamcast title. You will immediately notice the similarities between this game and Ace Combat 2 for the PSX. Everything from menu options, mission briefings, to gameplay are done in a near identical manor.
Starting off, your are given the option of selecting your difficulty. The higher the difficulty, the more shrapnel you will face. Setting the difficulty level on high also steps up the computers AI. After selecting your dificulty you will be sent to the first mission briefing. There are twenty missions in this game, just enough to keep you occupied a while. The game is extremely linear in nature, so donít expect a Colony wars type of branching story line. If you should lose a mission, you simply are sent back to its beginning. Missions include destroying mostly land targets, although a fair amount of air to air combat will be required. Certain targets must be destroyed if you are to succeed in a mission, destroying others will earn you money. With this money you will be able to purchase different planes usable throughout the war.
There are 30 planes available to you in all, each with different characteristics. The planes are rated according to speed, agility, power and defense. Offering this many planes, one could get excited over all the possibilities in gameplay and handling. However, in using each plane, I found it necessary only to pick the most powerful jet. Needless to say, this was very disappointing. Had it been useful to stock up your hanger with five or six planes, each with its unique capabilities, this game would have had great replay value. As it stands now, it will only benefit you to have a single plane in your hanger, for the most powerful jet will succeed in virtually every mission. The linear paradigm and senseless addition of twenty five planes which youíll never have any use for greatly diminish this games replay value. At first you start with only the most mediocre of jets. As you progress through the game Stealth fighters and more powerful craft become available. The higher ranked planes definitely feel better to fly, but even these lack the real powerful feel most flight fans are in search of.
The Dog-fighting in this game is one of its worst qualities and this is not something a flight combat game wants to have said about it. Getting and staying on an opposing planes tail is near impossible. Dog-fighting is done in a perfect textbook fashion, and I donít mean this as a compliment. The play feels stiff and rather than flying by the seat of your pants your simply designated to lining up the target and shooting when you get a chance. More often than not you are left to circle around, opening up a four or five second window of opportunity in which to launch you missiles. If you miss, itís not a matter of keeping on his tail, but rather a matter of starting all over again from scratch. Judging the oppositions speed and direction are difficult, especially given the slow reaction time your plane possesses. Had the planes handled better, this aspect of the game could have been extremely fun. As it stands now, it simply doesnít cut it. Slow and unresponsive, control over your plane lacks what is needed to make a flight game work.
Beating up on the ground enemies can be quite fun indeed. Due to the lack of sheer dog-fighting fun, itís a good thing that the game concentrates mostly on air to ground attack. Your targets on the ground will come in many varieties. Most frequently you are left destroying targets that make themselves easy prey by not moving. Yes, itís fun to fly over the top of standing buildings and spray them with missiles, but it represents a style of gameplay that can get repetitive very quickly. The missions are not quite as varied as one would hope them to be. Once again, repetitive gameplay will leave most gamers wanting more. Of the twenty missions, you may only find two or three actually memorable.
Looking at this title in action may make a flight fan smile. Itís breathtaking to fly over, under, and through the cloud layers and then to descend upon the city. Itís a real shame that the dog-fighting isnít as good as it should be, for flying through these clouds with one MIG on your tail and another in your sites would be quite an experience. You will hardly ever encounter a situation like this in Air Force Delta and the stiff, slow gameplay is almost directly to blame. The cities and ground scenary are also delightful to witness. As you get closer to the ground, the details surrounding these objects become more vivid. Upon even closer inspection you will notice: however, that the detail is somewhat lacking in these structures. Most structures appear to simply stick up out of a flat landscape leaving a lack of desired detail and a transition that is not very smooth between landscapes and structures.
The two views you can witness the carnage through are the cockpit, and aft view. The game is certainly playable in the aft view, but more enjoyable from the cockpit view. Both are done well graphically, although in either case you are surrounded with a very shallow feeling. From behind the plane you are unable to see the entire scope and target locking area. From the cockpit you are left wishing there were simply more controls to read. In this game, the flying is so shallow, that you will rarely if ever need to check you equipment for any reason at all. An occasional glance at your altitude is more than sufficient.
The music is hardly memorable, and yet again there is a severe lack of voice-overs. Did any flight combat game learn anything from Colony Wars? What a good briefing can do to a mission is often overlooked. When a voice is prevalent itís weak, and not at all inspiring you to do some damage to enemy forces. The depth of sounds you will hear are lacking, and the engine itself can be more annoying than energetic. There is no communication between you and other pilots, or ground forces, thus aiding in the games shallow approach to a combat sim.
Playing Air Force Delta can certainly be fun at times, but rather slow gameplay and lack of depth kill its replay value. If youíve played Ace Combat 2 and are a big fan of this genre, this game may satisfy you temporarily; however, in the long run even the most die hard flight fans will be left wanting so much more than this title offers. This game definitely makes a good rental, and is worth taking a look at at least once. Within a few days you should complete all twenty missions, and once that is accomplished, there is little reason to put this GD into your Dreamcast again.
The following is a condensed review of Air Force Delta
Very nice looking clouds that are a pleasure to fly through. The look of the planes are definitely top notch. Ground targets and scenery are somewhat limited in terms of variety.
Average at best. Lack of voice-overs, annoying flight engine sounds and a real lack of sounds concerning your weaponry aid to this titles lackluster showing.
Easy to pick up and play right away, although you may desire a bit more of a learning curve. Gamespeed is slow at best, while controls over your craft are stiff and somewhat unresponsive.
After you play this title for a few short days you may never want to play it again. Very shallow linear gameplay warrant a rental at best.
Taking all things into consideration, you will find that Air Force Delta is simply a remake of the popular Ace Combat 2 for the PSX. Not one thing aside from the games graphics are more appealing on the Dreamcast than they were on the PSX. As the owner of a 128 bit system, you will be highly disappointed in this title. Itís is worth taking a look at, but I would definitely not advise purchasing this game.
Review By: Jonathan Licata